Fenwick GC, the oldest public course and/or Goat Track in Connecticut (Old Saybrook) reviewed July, 2008.
Based on an account by Rabbit Ears, as well as info. from other sources, Fenwick GC definitely earned a spot on the "Tracks to Review List." How often does one run across a course in these parts that was actually once mowed by goats? Enough said.
This article from the 6/27/08 "Shore View" newspaper definitely helped frame this review and provides more historical background on Fenwick than does the GT review.
The Goat Tracker review of Fenwick GC
To the first time visitor to Fenwick, in all deference to the course, the most difficult aspect of it is finding it. That said, any course where the navigation includes going over a causeway is way cool. (Thanks to the gentleman in the Caddy [it's a high-rent neighborhood] who realized that I was lost, pulled up, and provided directions to the course, much obliged). This set the tone for the whole Fenwick vibe, which is pretty relaxed, as it should be at the shore.
Whether you approach the course from the causeway or meander through the Maple Avenue navigational clusterf**k, the gravel parking lot is marked by an orange traffic cone and just screams "Goat Trackers, come hither!"
First Mistake: In the gravel parking lot, there's a shed with a garage door near the maintenance barn that says "pro shop." Of course, you can't pay for your greens fees there, that needs to be done at the smaller shack across the street, but the attendant there was more than helpful. He pointed out that our greens fees included a pull cart, which we declined, but based on the golfer demographics (AARP), made perfect sense. Two thumbs up.
Second Mistake: Missing the tee time by five minutes. The major drawback to playing Fenwick is that they request tee times more often than not. Missing our tee time and trying to get back in line seemed to momentarily befuddle our starter, Jean.
Moving on, the 1st hole (Church) : Taking some time to soak in Fenwick's ambiance while the group that took our spot teed off, there was an inspired Goat Track thought. The best kicker never used at a GT Minor Event is right here on the first tee; "best tee shot through the power lines." They cross the fairway and the opportunities to award style points are many: longest drive under them, best shot over the first, over the second, calling your shot... a true test of creativity and Track Acumen.
3rd hole (Davis): While we were well aware that the course coexists with a surrounding neighborhood of shoreline homes and that many of the surrounding homes have golf carts in the garage (think Florida or Arizona), the crossroad on the 3rd fairway kicked it up a notch. Approach your tee shot and come up to the street sign for Neponset Avenue and the fire hydrant adjacent to it. Absolutely awesome.
6th hole (Bunker): This is the hole that Katharine Hepburn reportedly aced many years ago. Good for her because this hole has some GT quirks to it. The berm that makes this short tee shot more challenging than the typical par three runs completely across the front of the green and keeps you from running one up, unless you are the KING of topspin...and even then, you're probably s.o.l.
Surprisingly enough, given the "Goat Track buildup" we read and heard about, we didn't see any truly worthy wispy, British-style Goat Track rough until the 7th hole, which was a bit surprising. We were hoping to have a better opportunity to demonstrate our flailing skills.
150 yard markers: Bushes, birdhouses? Pedestrian! Fenwick uses clumps of marsh grass. This was great and we Goat Trackers appreciate seeing the various things that get used for yardage markers.
Toughest holes to score: #8 (Riversea) and #9 (Westward Ho). Fenwick is pretty much dink and dunk, which is fine because a round at Fenwick is basically an excuse to hang out near the beach, soak it all in, and be strategically located to grab some clams on the half shell afterward. Apparently though, someone had a good sense of humor when the 8th and 9th holes were laid out. Care to thread the needle between the tree line on the left and the trap on the left to get to the 8th green? Knock yourself out, just pencil in at least a bogey. A similar bogey/double bogey opportunity awaits on #9. Great for match play.
Track conditions: They only water the greens. Awesome. These were by far the most puttable of any true Goat Track we've played this year and are bound to screw up your putting during your next round under "normal Tracking conditions." Fenwick's untended fairways are no worse than others we've played and brought me back to my all-time favorite Goat Track, Canton Public. The bunkers only had a few pebbles in them, so they're pretty much average by Goat Track standards.
Overall, a great course to play at least once, if the opportunity presents itself and you can find it; a great combination of "Goat Track sensibilities" and plenty of stuff to figure out on the fly. Two Goat Track horns up.